Explosive allegations surface in Halliwells court case

Halliwells’ equity partners altered the minutes of a meeting about the £25m Spinningfields reverse premium before passing them on to the rest of the firm, it was alleged in court today (18 April).

The allegation surfaced in a case being heard by Mr Justice Warren in the Chancery Division of the High Court concerning former junior equity partner Michael Burns, who retired from Halliwells in 2009 and joined DLA Piper later that year.

Lawyers for Burns were arguing that the terms of his retirement deed – which stipulated a ‘clean break’ for Burns from Halliwells – provided a complete defence to the failed firm’s liquidators’ demands for cash from the former partners.

However, Lexa Hilliard QC of 11 Stone Buildings, who has been instructed by Addleshaw Goddard on behalf of Halliwells LLP’s liquidators, BDO partners Shay Bannon and Dermot Power, argued that the events surrounding Halliwells’ collapse fell within the retirement deed’s exemption clauses, meaning that Burns was still on the hook.

Arguing the case, Hilliard at one point referred to allegations that Halliwells’ former equity partners had altered the minutes of a meeting about the division of the £24.5m reverse premium deal it had struck with its landlord before passing them on to the rest of the firm’s members.

A source told The Lawyer that, although this was likely the first time such allegations had been made in public, talk of altered minutes had been doing the rounds for some time among those close to the case.

The claims related to the £24.5m reverse premium deal that Halliwells struck with its landlord in 2005, of which £20.4m was shared out among equity partners in 2007 (20 June 2011), with the rest put back into the LLP.

The news comes as Halliwells’ former partners are set to enter mediation with BDO (12 April 2012).

James Potts of Erskine Chambers, instructed by Irwin Mitchell partner John Lord, was acting for Burns.

Burns could not be reached for comment.